Wing duo state their claim
July 31, 2011
Cory Jane was in lightning form against the Boks grabbing two tries in the process © Getty Images
All Blacks duo Zac Guildford and Cory Jane both shone against the Springboks on Saturday giving coach Graham Henry a selection headache ahead of the forthcoming World Cup.
Jane and Guildford scored two tries apiece in a six tries to one victory over a depleted Springboks outfit short of experience and ideas. Their defeat, following a 39-20 loss to Australia last week, leaves them pointless and effectively out of the running for the Tri-Nations title. Both All Blacks wingers were full of running as the home side's expansive game, and willingness to counter-attack from turnovers, saw them score three tries in each half to run out comfortable winners.
Coach Henry was effusive in his praise of how Jane and Guildford played, despite facing stiff competition from other three-quarters in the 34-strong squad. "I thought Guildford and Jane were quite outstanding, both of them played exceptionally well in all aspects of the game," Henry said.
"They couldn't do any more, they had big games. We've got probably nine guys going for six or five positions so we're going to have to make some important decisions."
The match was especially memorable for Guildford, who went into the match without a try in the black jersey and hoping to see more of the ball than he did in their 60-14 win over Fiji. "Six Tests and these are my first couple of tries so it was about time," said the Hawke's Bay 22-year-old, who noted the quality the All Blacks' selectors have at their disposal in the back three.
"Look at the competition, you've got some world-class players in the outside backs and I knew I had to play well or I knew I might have been on my way out. I'm satisfied with how I played but still think that I can play better."
Jane, who had been due to play against Fiji before badly dislocating his finger in a provincial match for Wellington, put an average season of Super Rugby for the Hurricanes behind him to score one superb solo try and produce an accomplished all-round display. "To get a couple of tries is a bonus, but trying to put my hand up and catch the coaches' eye was what I needed.
"There're a lot of guys trying to go into that wing spot so it was important that every time I get an opportunity or one of them gets an opportunity that we do nail it so hopefully I put my hand up. You can't slip or you're out the door."
Fellow winger Sitiveni Sivivatu, also in the squad as injury cover, shone against Fiji last week after being handed a last chance to impress following a below-par Super Rugby season. Backs coach Wayne Smith said the competition for places was bringing the best out of the players.
"There's a common trend appearing that the players under the most pressure are playing great rugby. I think that's an indication of how much they want to be there. You can't do any more than what they're doing or what Siti and Ben Smith did last week. All they can do is put their marker in the sand and let the selectors make the decisions."
The selection waters are about to get even murkier. The standout winger on last year's end of season tour to the northern hemisphere, Hosea Gear, is over his hamstring injury and set to play against Australia. Isaia Toeava came on at halftime for Auckland today against Taranaki in his first match back from a lengthy hip injury, while utility back Israel Dagg played club rugby in Hawke's Bay on Saturday after a thigh injury.
While competition is fierce among the outside backs, prop Wyatt Crockett also took his chance to impress and grab his first Test try while John Afoa lasted only six minutes as a replacement before leaving the field with a fractured cheekbone. First-choice loose-head Tony Woodcock plays for North Harbour in the national provincial championship on Tuesday while Owen Franks, who sat out the Fiji and South Africa Test, returns to the international fray this week.
The All Blacks will choose a 30-strong squad for the World Cup on August 23 and will take squads of 26 for their Tri-Nations Tests in South Africa and Australia in August.
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